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Dead Kids (2019)
Dark and suspenseful
There were several complexities presented in the film but they were able to put all together allowing a balance between crime thriller and teen drama. It's also worth mentioning that the cast especially Vance Larena who played Charles Blanco was great. I'm glad about the selection of young actors.
Successfully showed the truths about the life of an extra and life itself
Before That Thing Called Tadhana, writer and director Antoinette Jadaone gave us Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay. The mockumentary is a finalist at the 2011 Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival where it won six awards including Best Actress for Lilia Cuntapay, a professional extra and dubbed as the "Queen of Philippine Horror Movies".
No surprise there as the film uniquely and successfully showed the truths about the life of an extra and life itself without being overly dramatic. Not only that, but Lilia Cuntapay proved she can be in the lead too. She has a sense of humor and a charm that makes you want to listen and see what she'll say and do next.
I remember a scene where she took her neighbor's advice and went to Starbucks so she can write her thank you speech. After seeing the prices, she asks herself what's wrong with Starbucks' coffee. And when it was her turn, she orders a bottle of water instead. To her surprise, the cashier asks her for Php 40.00. Cuntapay directly asks, "What's wrong with your water?"
It was a short scene but it made me laugh. Plus, it also showed how much she loves acting that she is willing to try new things just to be able to write the perfect thank you speech.
Besides that, Lilia Cuntapay also delivered lines that speak to your heart. There was a scene where she was called for work and arrived at the set before the call time. Director Antoinette Jadaone asks her why did she come early. Lilia Cuntapay simply says that she would rather wait than have people wait for her.
"Ang buhay hindi para sa taong mainipin. Kasama sa pagiging tao ang paghihintay." (Life is not for impatient people. Waiting is part of being a person.)
"Ang mga extra simpleng characters lang. Walang past. Wala ring future. (Extras are just simple characters. They don't have a past and a future.)
Hearing the last line from her, it dawned on me that extras with lines or no lines are only there to fill the space. They don't even support the characters and are simply forgotten. But not Lilia Cuntapay.
Successfully delivers a strong message
Buttons is filled with wonder and positivity as it shows the genuine friendship between our main characters, or shall I say dolls - Iko and Dixie! Though its animation style is simple, the film's execution complemented its story enabling it to successfully deliver a strong message to its viewers.
Emotional punch and a relatable feeling...
Geo is simply great. The music and visuals from the introduction made Geo seem like an action-packed adventure film by Marvel. Not only that, but the story itself has an emotional punch and a relatable feeling. It gave me the same impression when I watched Walt Disney Animation Studios' Big Hero 6. And that isn't bad.
Little Lights (2015)
Did not fail to impress!
The beautiful background music in Little Lights takes us on an enchanting journey from beginning to end. Viewers were treated with magical and colorful visuals starting with the falling leaves in the morning to late afternoon leading to the fireflies' activities at night.
In terms of story, the animation did not fail to impress. Little Lights simply tells us to find our light. Know what we, as a person are capable of doing and not be afraid to step up when necessary.
Ang manananggal sa unit 23B (2016)
Visually Gorgeous & Clever
Before sharing my thoughts on the film, let's first tackle the fascinating creature that Filipinos love. The manananggal is an ordinary human female by day. When the moon rises, she performs a ritual which involves rubbing a certain type of oil on her waist and transforming her into a vicious, half-bodied monster with huge bat-like wings!
Yes, you read that right.
After the ritual, this creature of Philippine mythology and folklore would leave her lower body hidden in the bushes till dawn while her upper body flies off to search for food. They usually prey on pregnant women by sucking the unborn infant from the womb but eating human heart is also on their list.
Now let's talk about Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B.
The film started by showing what Jewel (Ryza Cenon) probably sees everyday as a human - the sky, the buildings and the streets. Then we were shown how Jewel lives her day - eating balut and feeding her pet turtle. During the first few minutes, we can conclude that Jewel is a shy person and doesn't want to be around people too much.
But when Jewel met and befriends her neighbor Nico (Martin del Rosario) and his grandmother (Vangie Labalan), we start to see more about her as a person. Plus based on the jokes she makes about her life and her actions, we can validate that she is indeed holding onto her humanity.
"Wala akong boyfriend kasi wala namang nagmamahal sa 'kin e. Masama akong tao, hindi mo lang alam." - Jewel, Ang Manananggal sa Unit 23B
Honestly, I think this is the most "human" manananggal I have ever encountered in Philippine cinema. Yes, she still does the ritual I mentioned earlier as well as eat human hearts. But this creature is usually portrayed as mysterious and they don't try to hide that making them easy to be identified.
Despite that, I am not mad about this film's version as they made the character a bit more intriguing. It didn't even bother me that there was no explanation as to how Jewel became a manananggal. The audience just accepted it because the story and her character was very well put together. Besides, the film isn't really horror but more on romance.
It is also worth mentioning that there were some social commentaries cleverly inserted in the film. To hide the manananggal's feeding activity, Jewel places a sign on her victim's saying, "Huwag tularan Pusher ako" which is very timely.
Moreover, Jewel's transformation from human to monster is visually gorgeous. I must say, Ryza Cenon did a superb job. Since her GMA StarStruck days where she is the Ultimate Survivor of the shows second season, Cenon has grown so much as an actor. Have you seen her in GMA Network's Ika-6 Na Utos? She is great there as well.
100 tula para kay Stella (2017)
A Nostalgic & Coming-of-Age Story
The film starts at the beginning of the School Year 2004 – 2005, Fidel's first year in college. Like any school, the first day is dedicated to getting to know the professor and the students. In one class, it was Fidel's turn to do so. To help him speak and cover the fact that he has speech defect, he prepared a couple of cue cards. But as soon as he was asked about his interests and hobbies, Fidel was caught off guard revealing his secret.
Though that incident led to students making fun of him, that encounter also led to his inspiration. The professor who asked about Fidel's interests and hobbies happens to be the Faculty Adviser of The Seedling, the school's publication. She asked if he could submit a poem about anything that inspires him.
"Anything that inspires you."
He tries to write but was unsuccessful. When Freshie's Night came, he met Stella, the person who showed him kindness and the inspiration behind his first poem.
As he gets closer and their friendship deepens, he soon writes more and more poems with her in mind.
What I like about 100 Tula Para Kay Stella is their take on both sides of college life and life in general. It is, after all, the time where a person discovers and understands himself.
Take Fidel, for instance. Though Stella never left his mind, he continued life in school and experienced the "college life". Stella, on the other hand, was blinded by her dream. She kept looking straight ignoring the signs making her loose sight of what's important. But in the end, both characters acknowledged the emotions and mistakes they committed helping them accept everything that happened.
100 Tula Para Kay Stella successfully delivered each characters' journey. Though there were some sudden shifts in the film's tone, I didn't mind it at all because that's how life truly is. One day, you're happy. The next, you're angry at everyone and life starts to loose meaning.
Another thing I like is the non-stop nostalgia. I wasn't in college yet but I do remember that 2004 was indeed a good year for Pinoy Rock Bands and Nokia phones. I believe it's the perfect setting for 100 Tula Para Kay Stella.
Water Spirit and Possession
LAWOD is director Dan Villegas' first foray into the horror genre. Direk Dan initially wanted a demonic possession but after some brainstorming sessions with scriptwriter Yvette Tan, they finally settled on "a family plagued by a water elemental spirit." With the help of director Antoinette Jadaone (Villegas' girlfriend), their monster was named.
Ilawod or downstream is the opposite of ilaya or upstream. This word may be unfamiliar but it is creepy and intriguing enough. Just think of reports about mysterious or "unexplained" drowning. People who survived such incident say that a force tried to drag them down.
With a menacing water elemental spirit like that, Dan Villegas' Ilawod is clearly a supernatural horror. But that is not all! I found two subgenres – psychological and drama horror which pulled me even more.
First, it is worth mentioning that Therese Malvar's performance as the water elemental is so absorbing. Her first target in the family was the young son, Ben played by Harvey Bautista. She attacked Ben psychologically which I found beautiful.
On the side, the Ilawod also manifested to Bea the youngest child played by Xyriel Manabat, Kathy the mother played by Iza Calzado and Dennis the father played by Ian Veneracion. But as the elemental got deep into Ben's head, the family's world turned upside down.
The execution was very dramatic. The emotion heightened when the mom found out what happened to her son. As the father, Dennis did everything he could. Unfortunately, the family's bond has been over taken. Thus, the elemental won.
The supernatural element, psychological attack and dramatic scenes might not be a good horror combination for some. But there are times you won't need horrific images to make you scared. The mind is very powerful and Ilawod played with that.
Bloody Crayons (2017)
Bloody Crayons is Surprisingly Okay
With such a simple and unpretentious story line, it wasn't difficult to enjoy the film.
The direction built was straight and clear. Along that road are nine characters (less after some got killed) which we got to know even if it was just for a short while. When they started playing the Bloody Crayons game, there was a brief harmony among the characters.
BUT that same moment also marks the turning point and emergence of each personality's darker shade. The deception and confusion led to an even more interesting and gruesome series of events.
The young actors' performances were on point but there are those who stole the spotlight. There's Jane Oineza who played Olivia. Switching from killer to victim and back to killer asked a lot from her but she delivered. Yves Flores who played Justin also stole the spotlight with all his outbursts.
With all those together, I found how surprisingly okay Bloody Crayons is.
Kita kita (2017)
Unconventional But Beautiful
Kita Kita is unconventional. The producers took the risk of presenting something unusual. To everyone's surprise that so-called "unconventional" worked wonders!
Casting actor and comedian Empoy Marquez alongside the beautiful and talented actress Alessandra De Rossi is the best decision ever. Sure Marquez is not the cute guy next door but the role given to him and his portrayal made everyone fall for him. It's also worth mentioning that Marquez and De Rossi has an incredible chemistry making their "AlEmpoy" love team a huge hit.
Besides unconventional, Kita Kita is also absolutely beautiful – visually and emotionally. While touring the beautiful Sapporo, we know that there is a grand plan at the end. Kita Kita prepared us by giving a simple path to follow. As we slowly take it, we learn more and more about the characters gaining a deeper understanding of their life, friendship and love.
Sigrid Bernardo's Kita Kita proves that unconventional can also be beautiful.